Fun sometimes lacking from PGA Tour
Here’s a few things you might have learned, had you been snowed in somewhere and needed a golf fix so badly that you watched the Sony Open.
One, television can’t get enough of Michelle Wie, who is too young to even rent a golf cart at most courses. Two, Hawaii has some pretty nice scenery, with all the beaches and palm trees and stuff.
And three, without Tiger Woods, watching golf is a better cure for insomnia than popping a handful of sleeping pills.
Which is precisely why ESPN, in a desperate bid to inject some kind of spark in its telecast, showed tape of Wie just as the leaders were playing the final holes on Sunday. The tape was from the opening two rounds, when the cable channel showed nearly every shot she hit even as the teenager hacked it around for two days and missed the cut.
The alternative, of course, was showing the robotic Vijay Singh methodically making his way around the course and winning another tournament.
Officially, the Sony Open was the first full-field tournament of a season that will stretch over 10 months and end with the Tour Championship in October. If it was a preview of coming attractions, it’s going to be a very long season indeed.
Yes, it’s early in the year, a time when half the country is still buried under snow, and a time when it’s hard to get focused on golf.
But there seems to be something wrong with the PGA Tour these days that even a Tiger on the loose can’t readily fix.
I remember a time, not so long ago, when golf was fun. I couldn’t wait to see the Golden Bear prowling the fairways, wanted to hear Fuzzy Zoeller crack jokes and agonized along with Greg Norman as he wildly thrashed his way from one disaster to another.
Players had creative nicknames, threw clubs in disgust and sometimes even went out of their way to make things interesting for the fans.
Imagine Davis Love III pulling a rubber snake out of his bag and tossing it at Retief Goosen the way Lee Trevino did to Jack Nicklaus did on the first tee of their playoff in the 1971 U.S. Open.
More to the point, imagine Love or Goosen even smiling once on the golf course.
Phil Mickelson smiles. It’s kind of a goofy grin that sometimes makes his fellow pros wonder what he’s smiling about. But at least Mickelson attracts fans, even though he seemed more interested in the opening weeks of the NFL season last year than trying to help the United States win a Ryder Cup.
Woods brought the magic back to golf when he arrived on tour and began winning major after major. But now Tigermania is over, and so is the golf boom that came along with it.
Fans are bored, and who can blame them? The players are boring.
That’s bad news for the PGA Tour, which can expect to see TV ratings decline again this year even as purses continue to increase. Golf may be stagnant, but there’s always another golf-infatuated CEO somewhere who will spend his company’s money on a sponsorship so he can get a few awkward moments of air time at a tournament on Sunday.
Money is the root of some of the problem. Singh won nearly $11 million last year, and 77 players earned $1 million or more. They’re rich, pampered and don’t seem to understand that part of the deal in exchange for that is you should try to please the people watching.
A case in point is Paul Azinger, who should have been a sympathetic figure at the 2003 PGA Championship. It was the 10th anniversary of his only major win, and he had beaten cancer in between. But fans began yelling at him after he repeatedly walked past a line of kids seeking autographs, ignoring them every time. Woods rarely signs autographs, too, and Singh is so wrapped up in his own little world that nothing penetrates his stoic exterior.
After winning Sunday - his seventh win in his last 11 Tour starts - Singh remarked how much of a relief it was to start the year off right so he ‘‘can start breathing again.’’
Funny you would say that, Vijay. Most of the time it looks as if you’re not breathing at all.
Dave Renwick made over $1 million toting Singh’s bag last year. Think he had something nice to say about his former boss?
‘‘I never got a ’Good morning’ from Vijay, or ’Good club’ after a shot, or ’Have a nice night’ at the end of the day. It was either nothing or a negative if he did speak to me,’’ Renwick told The Scotsman newspaper recently. ‘‘Being courteous isn’t much to ask. There’s only so much of that stuff you can take, no matter how good the money is.’’ The money is very good, of course, and the players are better than ever. Golf fans want to root, and they ask only thing from the players in return:
Make it fun to watch once in a while.
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